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Should I use a colon, parentheses, or none of them to introduce the word "Arabic" in the following sentence?

I am passionate about languages —including my native one: Arabic— and a fan of accuracy and perfectionism.

The other option would be:

I am passionate about languages —including my native one (Arabic)— and a fan of accuracy and perfectionism.

but Word doesn't agree to this one. It corrects it to have a space between the parentheses and the second em-dash.

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    What's wrong with commas? – Mick Jan 8 '17 at 17:26
  • Should I use a comma then (instead of the colon)? :) – Mariam Jan 8 '17 at 17:29
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    I am passionate about languages —including my native Arabic— and a fan of accuracy and perfectionism. There you go. – Lambie Jan 8 '17 at 18:03
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    MS Word is NOT the definitive authority on punctuation (nor on spelling or grammar). MS Word can be wrong: it provides guidance & suggestions, but it is not infallible! – TrevorD Jan 8 '17 at 18:50
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    Em dashes in English are generally set closed (with no space on either side of the dash) or open (with a space, often a narrow or thin space, on both sides), but not usually with a space on one side and none on the other. That is very unusual, and I would advise against it. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 23 '18 at 19:23
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The problem is that, except in certain contexts, the colon is interpreted to be (almost) as "strong" as a "full stop" (period), both in terms of the spoken-language timing/emphasis, and in terms of syntactic analysis. Em-dash, on the other hand, is a hair mushier, but is allowed to take the place of a comma in certain syntactic structures.

Placing a colon "inside" paired em-dashes (or inside any other parenthetic form) is confusing at best and goes against normal conventions.

Thus, your second option is the better one (and let MS Word go to ... somewhere -- it's screwed up writing ever since it pushed out WordPerfect).

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Punctuation is largely a matter of style, and styles change with time. I don't see any problem with using commas throughout:

I am passionate about languages, including my native one, Arabic, and a fan of accuracy and perfectionism.

I wouldn't use dashes as parenthetical marks. If you don't like commas, use parentheses instead:

I am passionate about languages (including my native one, Arabic), and a fan of accuracy and perfectionism.

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    I have not come across a style guide arguing against the use of dashes around parentheticals. Leaving out supporting references in an answer gives the impression (which may well be true) that this is mere subjective preference. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 26 '17 at 23:23
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    Dashes are by far superior to parentheses in this case. Purdue OWL: "Use parentheses to set off nonessential material, such as dates, clarifying information, or sources from a sentence. ... Use a dash to set off an appositive phrase that already includes commas." – Peter Shor Jan 26 '18 at 1:50
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    I'd be more comfortable writing "I am passionate about languages (including my native Arabic) and am a fan of accuracy and perfectionism." No comma is needed after "(. . . Arabic)," if an additional "am" is supplied. There are other possibilities too. – rhetorician Jan 26 '18 at 2:24

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